Christian Perspectives on the Human
Chesterton had found two things inexplicable on a materialistic basis: the creature called Man and the man called Christ, neither of which would consent to being reduced to mere nature. Lewis explicated the ethical implications of our irreducibility in the non-material Tao, rebellion against which in the name of reductionist philosophies threatens our very humanity. Tolkien brings us full circle, explaining why story telling is central to this irreducible human nature, and finding the fulfillment of our most moving stories in the story of Christ, that point where, as Lewis would put it, myth entered history.
So the human race still hangs on. In spite of every attempt to define it out of existence, it keeps building its very unbirdlike nests and writing its very unbovine histories. Perhaps if we could read the faun's-eye view of our race that Lucy saw in Mr. Tumnus' library, we should find the answer to its titular question laden with Chestertonian irony. Is Man a Myth? It depends on what we mean. Man, the spiritual animal whose mind transcends the physically quantifiable in ways that are of mythic proportions, is not a myth (in the sense that he does not exist), though he is both mythopoeic and mythopathic. But Man the product of evolution who can be explained fully in terms of material and mechanical processes is definitely a myth, a myth created by Man the Mythmaker. For this Man is a story that attempts to explain the world, and explains it well as long as we do not step outside the limited vision of reductionist materialism But there are older myths, more redolent of the full truth about us if not more powerful to shape our conceptions. And one of those, if these men were right, is the True Myth, the one story that really does explain the world.
LIST OF WORKS CITED
Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Trans. Henry Beveridge. 2 vols. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975.
Chesterton, G. K. The Everlasting Man. NY: Dodd, Mead, and Company, 1925.
Lewis, C. S. The Abolition of Man. Ontario: The MacMillan Company, 1947.
------------. Out of the Silent Planet. NY: Simon & Schuster Inc., 1996.
Pope, Alexander. "An Essay on Man." The Poems of Alexander Pope, ed. John Butt. New Haven: Yale Univ. Pr., 1963, pp. 501-47.
Tolkien, J. R. R. "On Faerie Stories." The Tolkien Reader. NY: Ballantine, 1966, pp. 3-84.
Witherspoon, Alexander M. and Frank J. Warnke. Seventeenth-Century Prose and Poetry, 2nd ed. N.Y.: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1982.
T. Williams, "'Is Man a Myth?': Mere Christian Perspectives on the
Donald T. Williams, PhD, is Pastor of Trinity Fellowship (Evangelical Free Church of America) in Toccoa, Ga., and Professor of English at Toccoa Falls College. He holds a B.A. in English (Taylor University, 1973), an M.Div. (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, 1976), and a PhD in Medieval and Renaissance Literature (University of Georgia, 1985). His articles, reviews, poems, and stories have appeared in such publications as Christianity Today, The Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Philosophia Christi, Christianity and Literature, Christian Scholar's Review, and Theology Today. He is the author of The Person and Work of The Holy Spirit (Nashville: Broadman, 1994), Inklings of Reality: Essays Toward a Christian Philosophy of Letters (Toccoa, Ga.: Toccoa Falls College Pr., 1996), and The Disciple's Prayer (Camp Hill, Pa.: Christian Publications, 1999).
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